What was daily life like for the ancient Romans? Well while more developed than many people in the contemporary world, it wasn't a lifestyle many people would have liked to have lived in today. The vast majority of Romans were poor (or slaves) and their lives were hard and grueling.

Most movies about the Romans only show selected parts of the lives of the elite and not the ordinary lives of the normal Roman citizen (except for HBO's 2-season 2005 series "Rome").

Their Homes - The Insula

Most Romans lived in the insula - these were either a kind of apartment building or a city block. Insulae housed most of the urban citizens of Rome. Rome grew to have a massive population of some 800,000 to 1 million people and so the insulae were designed to cope with a denser population.

  • Rome Population: As Many As 1 Million People
  • Insulae: A Type of Roman Apartment Building or City Block

Most of the people who lived in these buildings were ordinary people of the middle class or lower class status (called the plebs). Only the wealthiest from the upper-middle class (called the equites) wouldn't live in the insula. The elite lived in what was called a "domus" or large single-family residence.

These two kinds of housing were intermingled in the city and not segregated into separate neighborhoods.

  • Running Water: There Was No Running Water in the Insula

On the ground floor were shops and businesses and people would live above them. The owners were often wealthy Romans and Senators. Residents who lived in the insula paid their owners rent. Sometimes these buildings were in bad repair and would fall down. Once Cicero wrote that his buildings were so bad that not only the tenants but also the mice had moved out.

  • Fires: Fires Were A Big Problem to The Insula

There has even been evidence of an early form of fire insurance on these buildings with court cases accusing owners of burying their own insula in order to get the insurance payout. It seems that insurance fraud is as old as insurance itself.

Related: Rome's Colosseum Could Be Returning To Its Former Glory With A Retractable Floor

Working Day and Afternoon Relaxation

While the conditions left much to be desired, the working day for the average Roman was not so bad. They would rise at dawn and make their way to work. Perhaps they would grab a fast-food breakfast at a Thermopolium on the way.

  • Thermopolium: A Kind of Fast Food/Street Food Restuarant
  • Work: From Dawn to The Afternoon

They would then work until the afternoon and then be free to chill out for the rest of the day. They would often go to a public bar or go to the public baths. Roman bars had both an outdoor area for those who wanted takeout and an indoor area for those who wanted to dine in.

  • Favorite Drink: Warm Wine Sweetened With Honey

Roman Baths And Gyms

The Roman baths were one of the hallmarks of the Roman world. This was the place where the Romans could relax, clean themselves, and perhaps pick up a prostitute (this was very normal in the Roman world). One of the largest of the bath complexes was so large it could have accommodated some 1,600 bathers.

  • Largest Baths: Could Accommodate Up To 1,600 Bathers
  • Bathing Complexes: Could Include A Library, a Gym, A Restaurant, and Even a Brothel

The largest of bathing complexes could come with a library, a gym, a restaurant, and possibly even a brothel. These places were often lavishly decorated and were adorned with many stunning statues - they were a welcome break from the small dark rooms of the insula.

One of the best places to see old Roman baths today is in Bath, England (that does live up to the hype). Although all the actual structure there is not from the Romans.

Related: These Are Some Of The Best Preserved Roman Roads To Explore

Public Toilets

At home people mostly used chamber pots. But there were also many public toilets for the citizens to use and these were often preferred as they normally had running water to dispose of the waste. One can see many of these ancient Roman toilets in ruins around the ancient cities today.

However, they would also use a communal sponge on a stick for cleaning. If one person had worms, then the others were also likely to get them. It was also communal where everyone would be sitting (very) close to many other strangers with no privacy.

  • Public Toilets: There Were (Very) Public Toilets in Rome

There were also pots placed around the city to stop men from urinating in the street. The urine would then be used for cleaning the clothes - the ammonia in the urine made it good for washing clothes. Want to take one's clothes to the old Roman laundromat?

  • Urine: Used For Washing Clothes

Next: This Ancient Aqueduct Is The Most Impressive & Best Preserved Roman Ruin